The “Full Catastrophe”
How to be happy as a woman today? When we must be able to play many roles and juggle many aspects of our lives. What is going on with women today can be compared with the answer that Zorba the Greek gave when posed with the question, “Zorba, have you ever been married?” and Zorba replied “Am I not a man? Of course I’ve been married. Wife, house, kids, everything...the full catastrophe.” Zorba was not lamenting about his situation as being disastrous because of all the work and responsibility that went along with his situation, he was rather just acknowledging life for its fullness and richness and acknowledging that life is filled with sorrow, tragedies, trials and inconsistencies.
Zorba enjoyed life and was fully present to take on the “full catastrophe” that comes with living life. Although Zorba was only a character in a movie, it’s the philosophy that holds true. In today’s world, women are experiencing the “full catastrophe” in their many roles and responsibilities.
An example of this is all of the women who are of the sandwich generation of 40 to 60 who are raising a child and caring for an aging parent either locally or from a distance. Interestingly, while men and women are both part of this generation, it's the women that are more likely to be the primary caregivers in a family and are increasingly the primary breadwinners as well.
As I have seen from my practice, this can cause many women to experience stress related symptoms and depression. Alternatively, when woman are equipped emotionally and psychologically to deal with the stressors of today’s lifestyle, they can better enjoy life’s richness and texture.
4 Positive Ways to Deal with Life Changes
Four practices used in my clinical and coaching practice that are strongly evidence based and can help women deal with several of life’s challenges. These practices come from the field of positive psychology and include mindfulness-based techniques, mindset awareness; strengths based approaches, and knowing what you most value in your life.
1. Incorporate mindfulness into everyday living.
Practicing mindfulness-based techniques allows increased psychological flexibility in many different situations both good and bad and can lead to decreased stress. When mindfully living your life, you are less reactive to stressors and have more behavioural choices. Mindfulness is simply the process of slowing down the mind in order to pay attention to thoughts and feelings as they are happening with an openness and curiosity.
When we are in the present moment and experience unpleasant thoughts, it is helpful to avoid pushing such thoughts away and instead, observe or get to know them, which over time reduces their impact and amount of stress they cause. Several studies have shown that practicing mindfulness, even for just a few weeks, can bring about positive changes to physical, psychological and social functioning during very stressful times.
Practice mindful eating the next time you’re eating a favourite snack. Eat just a little slower and try to stay in the moment by focusing on the texture, aroma and its flavour. This is a very simple starting method to begin slowing down and experiencing in-the-moment living.
2. Become aware of your mindset.
Focus on getting better rather than being good: Think about your challenges as opportunities to improve, rather than to prove yourself. The “get better” mindset in the long run fosters deeper relationships, better coping during difficult times, reduced anxiety, and enables better methods of dealing with conflict.
3. Discover your strengths.
We all have strengths. These are qualities that we possess that are stable over time. They are a person’s natural inclination in life. When we know our strengths, we can think about different ways of using them to solve problems and meet difficult challenges.
4. Clarify your Values.
Know what principals are most important to you. Having this information fresh in your mind will give you more of a chance to make decisions according to your values. It will also enable you to make more mindful based decisions. I have seen many women significantly reduce their stress levels and feel more confident in managing life’s challenges when learning about and applying these practices into their lives.
I incorporate the above techniques in my own life. When making important decisions, I always try to put space in between my reactions and become mindful of my values and the implications of my behavior. Although difficult at times, I know the get-better philosophy will keep me more motivated and better adjusted in the long run. Knowing and living by my values makes the hard decisions a little easier.
I would like to read your comments and opinions on your coaching experiences and how you believe coaching has helped you. Please share your thoughts and comments directly in the comments.